Where Is the Fruit of Child Training?

Let me share with you a story from a mom with a burdened heart.

I LOVE my son so much. He is the oldest of 4 boys. We constantly get compliments about what a sweet boy he is or what a BIG heart he has. But, as his mother I feel like a failure. He completely lacks self-discipline, diligence, and independence.

If I sit and do school WITH him he does a GREAT job and does it fairly quickly. BUT if I send him to his room to work independently he will either 1) take all day because he just sits there and daydreams OR 2) he rushes through it and does a really sloppy job.

We have spent YEARS training this child. My husband has literally taken him into the kitchen and cleaned WITH him step by step, showing him how to do it SEVERAL times. He has done a good job when he knows a reward awaits him (not perfect, but good), but for the most part he tries to get by with as little as possible.

If I don’t sit on him and make him brush his teeth or take a shower, he won’t. If I tell him his hair needs to be combed, he will go grab a hat.

He started crying tonight when I corrected him for doing a poor job. He said he feels like there is nothing he does well. Truthfully, I can’t think of anything he does well or that I am proud of as far as skill goes. He has a GREAT heart, but well meaning intentions will get him NOWHERE! Concerned Mom

What Concerned Mom is sharing about her son is something we commonly hear from moms. Often the mom is talking about a child that is seven years old or older. Perhaps this becomes an issue at this age because we begin to have some expectations of seeing the results of our child training by this time.

Our first step, when dealing with any difficult situation, and especially those concerning our children, is to pray. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). We pray for the Lord to work in and through the needs in our children’s lives. We also ask what God’s purposes are in the struggles. How does He want us to address them? What direction and solutions does He have? What Scripture applies?

Children take time to mature. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). What if Concerned Mom thinks back to her son at age five? I expect he has made some progress in these difficult areas since then, maybe even significant progress. Now, what if she remembers back to when he was nine? Again, he will have made progress—perhaps not as much as she would like, but progress.

What we want to focus on is the spiritual and character growth that is taking place in our children rather than the distance they have left to go. This perspective will help our hearts be encouraged and grateful to the Lord for what He has been doing in our children’s lives rather than discouraged over what still should be accomplished. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Concerned Mom’s son is a “sweet boy with a big heart.” A heart for the Lord and others is one of the major goals most Christian parents have for their children. Being thankful for the spiritual qualities she sees in her son will give Concerned Mom a starting point for giving her son positive feedback.

I would encourage Concerned Mom to continue working with her son in the areas where she sees her son should improve. Scripture admonishes us that we are to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is a long-term project the Lord has given us. Concerned Mom hasn’t failed but rather the Lord is making her aware of continued needs in her son’s life. This isn’t to discourage her but to give her direction in where to concentrate her efforts. Her commitment to helping her son is very important. From what she has shared, Concerned Mom is on the right track in teaching her son by showing him what to do, giving him responsibility, and then having consequences if he doesn’t follow through.

I would encourage Concerned Mom to find ways to help her son learn the steps to thoroughness for what he needs to do. She can make up checklists for him since she sees that he requires step-by-step direction to accomplish a task. Giving her son a scheduled time for particular jobs with deadlines and consequences may be useful. In addition, it is important to be consistent on a daily basis for an extended period of time. It is common to give up on what we are trying to do before it has time to work.

Concerned Mom could let her son take all day to do his schoolwork, without emotional anxiety over it. He likely won’t continue to take all day, and if he does, then she doesn’t need be concerned about it. It was his choice. When he tires of spending all day doing school, he will work harder to stick with it and get it done earlier.

When Concerned Mom’s son doesn’t do something well, she can simply send him back to do it again. Remember that a mom should do all of this with a meek and quiet spirit rather than with anger or resignation. Eventually, the son will decide to do a better job in the first place. I believe a key is being unemotional in dealing with all of this. Simply be matter of fact.

Another key ingredient in this process is keeping our children’s hearts, the subject of our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. In this case, I would suggest that Concerned Mom make it a priority to work with her son on some of his chores on a regular basis. She and her husband can spend time with him doing the tasks that are difficult. She can reinforce details of the job. Working together is a part of building relationships. While they work, Concerned Mom can talk to her son about his problems—not strictly when the crisis is flaring but at other times as well.

Concerned Mom will be able to encourage her son that keeping these issues before him to be worked on is a positive step. What about using his failures to help him see his dependence on Jesus Christ and need to rely on Him? “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). These parents can explain to their son that his reactions to failure and correction show pride in his life. “. . . God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Looking at verses in Proverbs that have to do with a son receiving correction would be a good study to do with a twelve-year-old boy. “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1). Keeping the relationships strong, with lots of loving communication, hugs, back patting, and enjoyable time together, is vitally important.

At age twelve, this boy’s family still has several prime years to work with their son. I think Concerned Mom should be encouraged. What she is doing will produce results. Her priority is to stay prayerful, loving, and consistent. She wants to find things for which she can praise her son. It might not seem like there are any, but if she thinks about it and looks for them, they will be there—starting with him being sweet and having a big heart. She wants to make sure that praise comes out loud and clear.

I believe most homeschooling moms have areas in their children’s lives where they know growth is needed. May this be our theme verse as we face and tackle these necessary issues. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). The fruit comes from years of praying, loving, teaching, consistency, and investing in the lives of our children.